Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Anti-gay madness down the ticket, but not in Tennessee

I should start by saying that we haven't seen a lot of anti-gay rhetoric in the presidential campaign. True, Sarah Palin has discussed her opposition to same-sex marriage, but we're not hearing a lot of scapegoating from the McCain campaign. It's important to note progress. Right?

Down the ticket around the country, however, we're seeing some dirty tricks. Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina has attacked opponent Kay Hagan by casting gays as predatory. In California and Florida there have been cyber attacks against the websites fighting state amendments banning same-sex marriage. Oh, and a shell group claiming to be a GLBT organization is making robo-calls on behalf of a South Carolina Democratic State Senate candidate, who isn't even for equality.

Thankfully we haven't seen much of that sort of thing in Tennessee. Granted, Ken Yager and Becky Ruppe have waged a valiant battle to see who can do more to oppose "gay marriage." But mostly we've had to read about garden variety adultery, affairs, and nasty divorces in our legislative races. The sanctity of marriage is a fragile thing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Westboro Baptist to protest in Scott County

Just when I thought the most serious offenses committed this month would be in the presidential campaign, this one is so off the charts, I barely know what to say. Pastor Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church is coming to Scott County to protest at the funerals of four Scott High cheerleaders killed in an accident on Friday.

The announcement has the Scott County Liberals asking questions:

"If this group is to protest, how will our community react? How should our community react?"

I feel outraged and in pain for this community. I grew up in a small county like Scott County where everyone knows everyone else. This is a horrible loss and to have to deal with protests at the funerals of these children is going to be a life-shattering experience for many. Can you imagine being the official who has to issue the damned permit for this hate group to assault the eyes and ears of his or her neighbors? Can you imagine the feelings of the sheriff who has to guarantee the safety of the protesters? It's too much.

Too close to call is a good place to start...

...with English Only, that is. The Tennessean's poll of 200 voters (not as big of a sample as I would have liked) indicates there is a slightly larger group of voters who oppose the English only ballot measure than support it. The margin of error is plus or minus 6 points.

I have to admit that I'm surprised. I figured the opponents would be way behind. The numbers should give encouragement to the groups that I have heard are mobilizing to fight the initiative. I can see a realistic fundraising case being made to support the Vote No campaign, even though many will be tapped out because of the economy and contributions for the November elections. People like to support a winner and it's clear that there is a chance the Vote No forces can win in January.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Presidential dance off

Saw it on CNN. Why not?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sher's House of Horrors: Nastiest Legislative Races this Year

The always informative Andy Sher provides the pre-Halloween lowdown on Tennessee's legislative races. It's no surprise that the Fear and Loathing in District 12 contest between Becky Ruppe and Ken Yager makes an appearance:

Just in time for Halloween, the Tennessee Democratic Party is running a television ad attacking former Roane County Executive Ken Yager, a Republican running against Morgan County Executive Becky Ruppe, a Democrat, in the 12th Senate District, which includes Rhea County.

The ad, which Democrats say is intended to deliver a serious message humorously, spoofs a horror movie trailer. The spot portrays Mr. Yager as a deranged, hockey-mask wearing, chain-saw wielding “job killer” who presided over a 25 percent plummet in manufacturing jobs during his final four years in office.

“The new name in terror,” the ad’s announcer says as a woman shrieks and the chain saw roars. “Ken Yager is the Job Killer.”

The ad states that in addition to the 25 percent loss of manufacturing jobs, “unemployment ran higher than the statewide average” during Mr. Yager’s 24-year tenure.

Yager campaign manager Robert Kuykendall charged that the Democratic attack ad was “false” and “tasteless.”

“It appears instead of discussing the issues, Becky Ruppe and her liberal friends in the Tennessee Democratic Party are playing with numbers to hide her dismal record as Morgan County executive,” Mr. Kuykendall said, accusing Democrats of “trying to cherry pick numbers.”

Ken the job killer vs. Becky's liberal friends. There's a future for the loser of this race in cheap fiction.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

PACs, lobbyists, and influence in State Government

The Tennessean takes a look at the interplay of political action committees, lobbyists, and influence in State government. I find myself agreeing with Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey with respect to influence and transparency:

He said he knows the public perceives these contributions as influencing him, but said that perception defies the logic of how the system works. He receives contributions from groups that agree with his voting philosophy, which is conservative and pro-business. If groups wanted to try to influence him to change his voting pattern, he said, he'd be receiving contributions from union PACs, which he does not.

"I'm for full disclosure and transparency and you let the people decide," Ramsey said. "You can pick something to death until the cows come home."

OK, I'll bracket the cow reference made so soon after the whole Dolores Gresham controversy, but I had to mention it. Hopefully without objection, Mr. Speaker. But back to the matter at hand...

Honestly, if money in itself bought influence, every gay business person in Tennessee would be pouring money into state legislative races and we wouldn't have had half the fights we've gone through since 2004. But we know that's not how it works. You give to candidates who are probably pretty well already on your side. You're funding campaign staff, yard signs, commercials, and so on so they can get into office or get reelected. And if it turns out they don't support you, well, you probably don't contribute the next time around or endorse them or send them volunteers.

Then there's the phrase "special interests" that appears in the article. It always reminds me of the phrase "special rights" that is thrown at us every time we try to access to jobs, housing, family protections, etc. Why on earth is it bad when groups of citizens band together to advocate for a cause? We spend so much time emphasizing voting in this country, often to no avail with the exception of this election and a few others. We've set the bar way too low. Voting ought to be considered the bare minimum. What if in civics classes we emphasized the importance of joining associations? I guarantee that if you're active in an association, you're going to vote. Why don't we teach high school students that if they care about labor, business, the environment, GLBT rights, family values, education, poverty, or whatever that there are groups they can support? And I'm not talking about the charitable/educational 501c3s out there. They're great and they deserve our money and volunteer time, but they don't initiate people into political participation.

As it stands, the lone voter hasn't heard of most of the organizations that are shaping legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. Those who join and participate have.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Gay marriage in every state" and other 11th hour election fantasies

Sarah Palin opened the door on same-sex marriage that John McCain wouldn't and now the Religious Right is running through.

But among the strongest pieces this year is Focus on the Family Action's letter which has been posted on the group's Web site and making the e-mail rounds. Signed by "A Christian from 2012," it claims a series of events could logically happen based on the group's interpretation of Obama's record, Democratic Party positions, recent court rulings and other trends.

Among the claims:

• A 6-3 liberal majority Supreme Court that results in rulings like one making gay marriage the law of the land and another forcing the Boy Scouts to "hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with young boys." (In the imagined scenario, The Boy Scouts choose to disband rather than obey).

But wait. How could this be? I mean, if "gay marriage" is everywhere, won't that ruin traditional marriage and mean there are no more children because everyone will "go gay"? Isn't that how the demise of the Boy Scouts will really come? I suppose that's just a footnote option in the range of apocalyptic visions that we'll face...

Geesh, if only these phantasms would come to an end on November 4!

Border State Update: Arkansas adoption ban losing in the polls

According to a University of Arkansas poll, 53% of Arkansas voters oppose a proposed ban on adoption by gays and lesbians. Bans also met defeat in the Mississippi and Tennessee legislatures this year. Interestingly, the two sponsors of the Tennessee bill were from Memphis, which shares a corner with Mississippi and Arkansas.

The poll is good news for Arkansas and it's good news for Tennessee and Mississippi, too. If the number hold, the result should help deter any renewed push for similar legislation in the Mid-South.

Scoring Tennessee's Congressional Delegation

The Human Rights Campaign has released their annual congressional scorecard. The guide uses a 100-point scale to track the voting records of members of Congress on issues of interest to the GLBT community such as the Matthew Shepard Act, judicial confirmations, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker both got a 20. They received all their points for voting for the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act, which repeals the ban on HIV+ visitors and immigrants.

Tennessee's House delegation was all over the map with a lot of 0s.

David Davis-0
John Duncan-0
Zach Wamp-0
Lincoln Davis-25
Jim Cooper-80
Bart Gordon-50
Marsha Blackburn-0
John Tanner-27
Steve Cohen-90

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cuffing the Architect: Protester tries to arrest Karl Rove

From Vibe to Cheekwood: Update on TEP Latino

Via Todd, Jeremy, and Wando:

En la última edición de “Out and About,” estábamos muy orgullosos de presentar el primero de una serie de artículos en español con el propósito de informar a los miembros de la comunidad GLBT (gay, lésbica, bisexual, transgénera) sobre los sucesos y noticias relevantes de Tennessee Equality Project y una nueva iniciativa de este grupo: Transformación, Equilibrio y Progreso. Aquí, en el segundo artículo de esta serie, informamos al lector sobre los logros de este grupo; un lugar de encuentro para la comunidad y; un evento de interés para la comunidad latina GLBT.

Los miembros del equipo Transformación, Equilibrío, y Progreso, se han reunido varias veces durante los últimos meses para decidir como se van a realizar sus metas. Se han desarrollado varias ideas, por ejemplo, buscar a miembros de la comunidad latina GLBT que estén dispuestos a servir en la junta directiva de la organización mayor. También, queremos colaborar con varios grupos de la comunidad como Conexión Américas y Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition para informarles sobre los recursos que les podamos ofrecer. Quisiéramos también formar lazos más fuertes con los abogados migratorios con el fin de compartir los recursos y las metas de TEP. Además de estas iniciativas y sobre todo, deseamos ver una comunidad latina GLBT que prospera.

Cipión y Berganza visitan Club Vibe: Un Punto de encuentro para toda la comunidad

Club Vibe, localizado en la popular “zona gay” de Nashville (1713 Church Street), ofrece un ambiente cómodo y amigable para todos los latinos GLBT de nuestra ciudad. Anteriormente conocido como “Club Blu,” este lugar tiene una larga historia de ser un lugar de encuentro para toda la comunidad GLBT. Pero, recientemente Club Vibe ha hecho un gran esfuerzo para acomodar a los latinos de Nashville. Abierto los viernes y los sábados entre las 10:00 PM y las 3:00 AM, Vibe ofrece dos experiencias distintas: una Latin Night los viernes y una Top-40s Night con un “toque latino” los sábados. Cipión y Berganza hablaron con el dueño de Vibe, Will Pulley, que nos contó que el propósito de Club Vibe es el de crear un ambiente de “show bar” que no se conozca como un bar GLBT sino que un bar donde todo el mundo sea bienvenido y donde se disfrute de los shows con las celebradas reinas Regine Phillips, Anastasia Beaverhausen, Stephanie Wells y Portia’. Según doña Anastasia, Club Vibe “desea construir un sentido de comunidad y también ofrecer opciones para ambas la comunidad GLBT y la comunidad straight.”

Cipión y Berganza también hablaron la estimada señorita Mónica Knowles, la que sirve de coordinadora de eventos en Club Vibe. Nos habló de las funciones de Club Vibe ambas para la comunidad latina y la comunidad straight de Nashville. Club Vibe sirve a la comunidad latina como lugar de encuentro, un lugar “nuestro” donde se pueda conocer a otros latinos GLBT. También es un lugar donde la comunidad straight de Nashville pueda conocer la cultura latina. Mónica se identifica como una “embajadora para la comunidad latina y la comunidad GLBT” y desea que Nashville conozca las actitudes latinas en cuanto a ser GLBT en la cultura latina. Según Mónica, “there are no 100% straight men in the Latin community” y que el concepto de “drag” es más aceptado en la comunidad latina que en la anglosajona. Se puede aprender más sobre Club Vibe en el internet:

Anuncio: ¡Celebración del día de los muertos en Cheekwood!

El jardín botánico y museo de arte Cheekwood será anfitrión de un evento festejando el Día de los Muertos, una celebración de origen prehispánico en que se honra y se celebra los seres amados que han muerto, el sábado el primero de noviembre desde las once de la mañana hasta las cinco de la tarde.

Esta celebración anual incluirá no sólo un mercado mexicano, sino espectáculos en vivo y actividades de arte interactivas para todos. La entrada es gratis para los miembros de Cheekwood y los que tienen menos de cinco años de edad, pero se cobra $10 por la entrada de adultos y $5 por la de la juventud y los estudiantes que muestran identificación apropiada.

Cheekwood está situado en el corazón de la comunidad de Belle Meade al lado del parque Percy Warner en 1200 Forrest Park Blvd. Para más información, se puede visitar o llamar al (615) 356-8000.

Esperemos que se haya disfrutado de este artículo escrito por los miembros de Transformación, Equilibrio y Progreso. Para continuar con nuestros proyectos y para realizar todas nuestras metas, necesitamos su apoyo. Si usted tiene interés en ayudarnos en cualquier manera o si desea avisarnos sobre un evento o una noticia que sea de interés, por favor mándenos un mensaje por email a

The members of TEP’s Latino Initiative, Transformación, Equilibrio, y Progreso are currently at work trying to inform not only the GLBT community with regards to our existence, but we’re also trying to work with the leaders of the Latino community. We need your help! One way in which we’ve attempted to communicate our existence and to refine our goals is to visit a club popular with GLBT latinos: Club Vibe. Club Vibe offers the entire community (straight, GLBT, latino and anglo) with a possiblity to experience a show bar with a “latin touch.” They’re open on Friday and Saturday nights. More information about Club Vibe can be found at You also might be interested in celebrating “El Día de los muertos” at Cheekwood. It’s a typical Mexican celebration, in which people honor their ancestors. More information is available at

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Joe the Plumber at Metro Council

A bill on third reading at tonight's Metro Council meeting dealt with types of plumber's licensing. Almost immediately throughout the Council chamber you could hear snickering and jokes about Joe the Plumber. Vice Mayor Neighbors reminded everyone that he is unlicensed to chuckles all around. The bill passed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sarah Palin's divorce from John McCain on same-sex marriage

As the examples multiply of the McCain campaign letting Palin be Palin, whether to tap into her authenticity or to give her space for her next step in politics post-McCain, Sarah Palin has come out in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In a CBN interview, she said:

"I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that's where we would go. I don't support gay marriage," Palin said. She said she believed traditional marriage is the foundation for strong families.

Her position shouldn't come as much of a surprise given her remarks during the vice presidential debate. But it's still disappointing. I have to give some credit to John McCain. He's a federalist who thinks the issue ought to be decided at the state level, and I don't think he wants this campaign to be about bullying the GLBT community or immigrants or any other outsider group. But someone in the campaign has decided that it would be a good idea to allow Palin to talk about the issue. The next two weeks are going to be rough.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

TEP interview on Liberadio

Check out the audio here. We cover marriage, coming out, hate crimes, employment nondiscrimination and more.

Tennessee Valley Pride wraps up

A few of us went to Chattanooga today to work the TEP/Out & About table at Tennessee Valley Pride's festival finale in Miller Plaza downtown. The turnout was great. The gamble of moving the event from an out-of-the-way park to a public venue paid off. The attendance was somewhere between 400 and 500 people.

They gave us a few minutes to speak about the hospital visitation bill that we're planning to introduce in the Legislature in January. It struck a chord. Dozens came to sign up for our mailing list and some shared stories of being denied visitation. I think Chattanooga legislators are going to be hearing from their constituents this winter.

See Out & About Newspaper's coverage here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Chattanooga lesbians switch parties in protest

A hat tip to TEP Vice President Stephen Henry for pointing out this part of today's Tennessean story on party-switching in the current election:

In Chattanooga, Susan Nicholas and her girlfriend, Tonja McCarver, were two of the 336,245 Tennessee Democrats who cast their votes for Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday. Crushed by Clinton's primary defeat and infuriated by what they saw as shady campaign tactics from the Obama camp, the couple marched into their local GOP headquarters and switched parties.

"A lot of people have told us we're crazy," said Nicholas, who said the East Tennessee GOP organizers welcomed them with open arms. "But the Democrats don't care any more about gay people than the Republicans do, unless it's an election. … I have been there for the Democrats and they have pushed us aside."

Once again, Palin was a catalyst for change. This time, McCain's choice of a woman as his running mate won over Nicholas.

"All I can do is vote against Obama," she said. "I just don't like his politics. I just don't like how he cheated Hillary out of the election, how he talked about her. … Now she's just one of his minions."

How to begin? I got the impression early in the election that a majority of the Nashville GLBT community's leaders were for Hillary Clinton whereas the Memphis GLBT community's leaders were for Barack Obama. East of Nashville my sense is that the community was solidly for Hillary. Overall, Tennessee's GLBT community has moved on and fallen in line with Obama.

In one sense, I'm not surprised that Nicholas isn't making the jump. If you believed in Hillary's policies, her as a candidate, or just as a person, it's hard to give up on her. And that's why millions stuck with her right through the last primary contest. I'll admit I was one of them.

But the nomination turned out another way, and most of us understood what is at stake--the Matthew Shepard Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Don't Ask/Don't Tell, etc. So most of us moved on and got behind the candidate who is more likely to acknowledge and support our community.

TEP doesn't make endorsements and our political action committee doesn't make federal endorsements. But this vignette deserves comment. So let me add this. I don't believe that Ms. Nicholas will find the same welcome after November that she found the day she walked into GOP headquarters. Some of the Republicans coming out of Southeast Tennessee like Chris Clem, David Fowler, and Jeff Miller have led the charge to make our community the focus of the culture war in this state. They're not legislators now, but the fires they helped ignite still burn.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Art Sales at KC Potter Opening to Benefit TEP Foundation

TEP Foundation Board Member, Nancy VanReece will show "Recent Memories" at the KC Potter Center at Vanderbilt University. October 20 -December 19, 2008

Reception and Grand Opening of the center is October 24, 4:30-6 pm.

All Vanderbilt Faculty and Students may receive at 20% discount on the artwork or choose to apply the discount as a donation to the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation.

Winter Walk 20 x20 acrylic on canvas (c) 2008
Contemporary Expression Used by permission. All Rights Reserved

Out & About Newspaper endorses Barack Obama for President

The State's largest GLBT newspaper has endorsed Barack Obama for President. Eschewing a focus on the equality issues that some might expect, the paper explained their choice in terms of the troubles facing our economy:

The message started with Barack Obama. Americans need a change. For every American, this message is no longer simply a campaign slogan, but a reality. That's why we at Out & About Newspaper chose to endorse Barack Obama for president. We believe he represents the change we need. He will be the catalyst that moves America in a direction of economic stability and reminds the rest of the world exactly why we are a great country. This political season is not about military spending, the war in Iraq or even equal rights. According to recent CNN polls, the economy and health care represent 71 percent of the most important issues impacting our decisions as we pull the lever during this year's election. Our next president must represent the change needed to address these issues. Barack Obama does.

State and Municipal Endorsements for November 4, 2008

Early voting has begun in Tennessee. If you live in Memphis, I encourage you to support TEP PAC's endorsements for the November 4, 2008 election.

I believe the following candidates are strong equality advocates and urge you to cast your vote for them if you live their districts:

Paul Shaffer
Memphis City Council Super District 9, Position 1

Representative Jeanne Richardson (D)
Tennessee State House District 89

Representative Mike Kernell (D)
Tennessee State House District 93

Senator Beverly Marrero (D)
Tennessee State Senate District 30

Early voting for the Nov. 4 General Election begins Oct. 15 and runs weekdays and Saturdays through Oct. 30. There will be 18 satellite voting centers including the Shelby County Election Commission, churches and community centers throughout Shelby County. For a list of locations, call (901) 545-4125, then press 4, or go to the Shelby County Election Commission.

TEP PAC is a State political action committee registered in Tennessee. Joyce Peacock, Treasurer. The endorsements of TEP PAC do not necessarily reflect the views of the board of the Tennessee Equality Project.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reactions to the third presidential debate

First, Bob Shieffer did an incredible job moderating the debate. He set out clear expectations and showed confidence in enforcing them without getting in the way.

Second, the format was great. Maybe it was just that the other two formats were so bad, but tonight's set up allowed the candidates to engage and show a real contrast. Now for the candidates...

John McCain has already been called angry and erratic. He couldn't have disproved that label tonight. Instead he used emotion to some advantage. He went on the attack and made points that will keep his base excited. For me, the attacks on ACORN and William Ayers fell flat, but I'll bet conservatives were cheering. Where his attack was effective with me and maybe some in the middle was his distancing from President Bush. Not only did he say he isn't George W. Bush, he added that maybe Barack Obama should have run against him four years ago. I remember the 2000 campaign, and John McCain with all his flaws is no George Bush. McCain was on the offensive and he had to be. I think some of the attacks got to Obama a bit.

But the attacks didn't land a devasting blow against Obama. Obama was strong in the details of his plans, convincing in his rationale for choosing Joe Biden as his running mate, and he was courageous in defending Roe v. Wade. When he said the right to privacy shouldn't be subject to a state referendum, I found myself nodding. It's not so much that he defended that issue, but it's the fact that he defended a hard issue with clarity that Democrats have been cautious about for the last few years.

Knox County: Red with some big blue streaks

Metro Pulse maps Democrats and Republicans in Knox County.

Knox County as a whole always goes Republican in presidential races. By the parlance of Bush-era political analysts, it’s red, a dutiful contributor to a red state.

However, the red wash obscures deeper complexity. It’s just as predictable—though less obvious, because we have to add up the tallies from political precincts to get it—that in presidential races, the City of Knoxville usually goes Democratic.

Best of Nashville in Politics

Congratulations to Emily Evans who was recognized today by the Nashville Scene as the "Best Metro Council Member." I happen to be in her district and am very happy for her.

Mayor Karl Dean made a couple of appearances in the Reader's Poll. He was listed as number one in "Best Thing That's Changed Nashville in the Last Year" and "Best Local Politician." Apparently the Scene doesn't agree with their readers. They attempt to paint him as MIA and avoiding controversy. They glide past the English-only matter:

True, he did speak out against Eric Crafton's "English Only" ballot initiative. But he's pulled a disappearing act on some other important issues.

Huh? I think that stance deserves a little more attention. He made a forceful speech before the Council on an issue where he's likely to be on the opposite side of the majority of voters. He has fought the proposal with every tool at his disposal in the name of a welcoming city and avoiding future costly litigation.

He made the community enhancement grant process substantially more transparent and he has taken a leadership role in looking at issues of poverty and economic development in Nashville's Poverty Symposium. Isn't this the sort of thing we want the Mayor to do?

The Scene has always played a valuable role in their skeptical look at local government. But I'm not following this time.

Let's start a war, start a nuclear war, at the gay bar, gay bar, gay bar

Not quite a war, but a judge got a little rowdy in the Stirrup on Monday night and got arrested. Police charged Anthony Adgent, an administrative judge, with assault and vandalism for fighting at the newly opened bar. Before the arrest, it took four people to remove him.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Four GLBT organizations to hold election night party in Nashville

The Tennessee Equality Project, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Victory Fund invite you to Tribe on election night to watch the returns and wash away the longest campaign ever with a drink or two.

A chorus of endorsements for Paul Shaffer

The endorsements for Paul Shaffer to fill the Super District 9 Position 1 seat on the Memphis City Council vacated by Scott McCormick are piling up.

The editorial board of the Commercial Appeal, Congressman Steve Cohen, and Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton join TEP-PAC in recommending him to voters.


Paul Shaffer for City Council
1899 Jefferson Avenue
Memphis, TN. 38104

October 10, 2008

Dear Friend,

On Tuesday, October 21st from 5:00- 7:30, we are hosting a fundraiser reception for Paul Shaffer, candidate for Memphis City Council, At-Large, District 9-1 at Just for Lunch, 3092 Poplar (Chickasaw Oaks Plaza-just east of the Memphis Public Library). We hope you will attend, and contribute $100, or more (made payable to Paul Shaffer for City Council). You can also mail your check to Paul Shaffer, 1899 Jefferson, Memphis 38104.

Many of you may know Paul as the business manager of the IBEW Local 474 where he oversees over two million dollars in revenue annually. As the business manager, Paul has broad experience in the functions of government, as well as private industry. He has worked to bring jobs, train workers, negotiate and build consensus on economic and other issues with both labor and business leaders and elected officials. As a Memphis City Councilman, he will work to bring more major industry to Memphis.

Paul has been married for 36 years to Madaline Crossley Shaffer. He advocates for better public schools, and his three (now adult) children all graduated from the Memphis City Schools (White Station). Paul supports neighborhood revitalization, and has lived in different areas of the city. He has taught Sunday school and been a youth group leader for the United Methodist Church.

Paul volunteered his services as an electrician for the needy, and helped Habitat for Humanity, and MIFA Meals on Wheels. He is a member in the Wolf River Conservancy. Paul served as a scoutmaster for the boys scouts, and was honored with the George Meany Scouting Award and the Kiwanis Club Joe Fuso Youth Service Award.

We hope you will join us in supporting Paul Shaffer, who has a proven track record of building coalitions to make Memphis better.

David Cocke
Carol Chumney
Commissioner Steve Mulroy
Regina Morrison Newman
Former State Rep. Mary Wilder
David Upton
Dr. Joe & Midge Weinberg

Grand opening for Out & About, One-in-Teen, and TEP

The Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce hosted the ribbon cutting for the three organizations tonight in Inglewood. WTVF has the story.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More than candidates on the ballot this year in Memphis & Shelby County

Last night, around 100 voters came to a community forum to learn more about several amendments to the Memphis City Charter and Shelby County Charter that will be on the November 4th ballot. The referenda will include provisions that would:
  1. Stagger City Council terms and establish term limits for the Mayor and Council members.
  2. Establish procedures for city Mayoral vacancies.
  3. Allow for suspension of elected or appointed city officials with pay when charged or indicted for an ethical or legal violation or misconduct .
  4. Require voter approval to sell MLGW (a public utility).
  5. Allow for Instant Runoff Elections for City Mayor and City Council.
  6. Allow voter recall of City Council members.
  7. Require that all appointed officials in city government be City residents.
  8. Establishes the constitutionality of five elected county offices - sheriff, trustee, clerk, assessor and register.
  9. Limit the above five county offices to two four-year terms.

Learn more about these proposed amendments here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Scott County Liberals have second thoughts about Becky Ruppe

The latest circular from 12th District State Senate candidate Becky Ruppe has given the Scott County Liberals pause. Figuring prominently in their second look are Ruppe's views on "gay marriage" and her use of gay activist Jim Maynard's comments.

Chattanooga hate crimes vigil recalls victims, urges passage of Matthew Shepard Act

This evening Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition President Marisa Richmond and I observed the 10th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death by making the trip to Chattanooga for the annual hate crimes vigil, which is one of the opening events of Tennessee Valley Pride. Several of the recent Tennessee hate crimes involving members of Tennessee's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community were remembered. Speakers urged Chattanoogans to do more to persuade Tennessee's congressional delegation, especially former Chattanooga Mayor and current Senator Bob Corker, to be more supportive of the Matthew Shepard Act. At the end of the event, the crowd drew close to share their hopes for working together to make all citizens of our State safe from bias-motivated violence and finally extinguished their candles.

The vigil was an important step in breaking the isolation that members of our community often feel outside Memphis, Knoxville, and Nashville. This isolation is a major obstacle to greater advocacy for equality.

Tennessean endorses Barack Obama for President

Here's the text.

This newspaper believes Obama would be an inspiring choice at an extraordinary time for the nation. The country needs a fresh, energetic face in the White House. Every race for president is important, but the current confluence of events, including the war on terror, mountainous challenges in the economy and a growing strain upon the nation's health-care system make the current race a call for vigorous new approaches and enthusiasm.

Obama has managed to put a tone of optimism in his campaign at a time it would be very easy to be downhearted, worried and pessimistic. That characteristic alone goes a long way in demonstrating the kind of leadership the nation needs.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dolores Gresham is number one ...

on the list of Fayette County recipients receiving state-funded agriculture grants, according to the Commercial Appeal. The State Senate candidate's husband, James, received almost $27,000 from the program and is on track to receive an additional $9040.

James Gresham was approved for cost-sharing grants totaling $35,890 to help pay for improvements on the cattle farm east of Somerville he owns with his wife. She sits on the House Agriculture Committee and in the legislature that funded the program.

Rep. Gresham, R-Somerville, spoke in favor of the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program in the committee on Feb. 6, 2007, when Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens reviewed its first year. She said the program "is obviously an investment in our future. It's an economic development tool."

That it is.

Although she didn't mention it at any point during the legislative session that approved the funds, she's not required to. She didn't break any laws or violate any regulations.

I wonder whether this item gets highlighted in next year's beef, er, um, Pork Report from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Connecticult Supreme Court strikes down ban on same-sex marriage

The New York Times has the details of the 4-3 ruling that paves the way for same-sex marriage. Following Massachusetts and California, Connecticut becomes the third state to allow same-sex couples to wed. Here is a link to the decision.

This is a great victory for equality, especially the day before National Coming Out Day. An obvious question is whether it injects the marriage issue back into the presidential race. With most of the country focused on the economy and Iraq, it is a risky gamble for McCain-Palin. But it gives them a chance to keep the fire burning under their boiling base. No doubt there will be subtleties about federalism and equal rights on both sides, but it could for a moment put the Democrats on the defensive.

Matthew Shepard and Coming Out

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming college student who was brutally attacked and left for dead hanging on a fence in the cold night air. Tomorrow is National Coming Out Day that celebrates the often difficult decision that people make to be honest about their sexual orientation.

Events around Tennessee will provide an opportunity for the GLBT community to reflect on both. Today I'll be speaking to a group of Vanderbilt medical students and on Sunday I'll be in Chattanooga for their annual hate crimes vigil that kicks off a week of activities for Tennessee Valley Pride.

The pairing of the two reminds us of the risks to our lives. We've seen a rash of hate violence already this year in Tennessee. Given the danger we face, I'm amazed and humbled that our movement makes progress. And I'm amazed and frustrated that there is not a national consensus that violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be covered in federal hate crimes laws.

Coming home from Kentucky last weekend, I heard a radio preacher fulminating against the Matthew Shepard Act that would add these two categories to federal law. He violated a commandment in the process. He repeated the common fear tactic that hate crimes laws would restrict the freedom of the pulpit to denounce the "abomination of homosexuality." The proposed law criminalizes behavior and it adds law enforcement resources to deal with the problem. Pure and simple. It does not restrict speech or religion.

At one level, I'm comforted that all our opponents have left are lies as their last defense against a just law. On the other hand, I'm angry that these lies generate enough calls and emails to Tennessee's U.S. Senators to prevent them from voting for the Matthew Shepard Act.

So Lamar, Bob, and Bob, I hope 2008 is the last year in U.S. history that federal law overlooks the violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Whoever among you enters the Senate chambers next year, have the courage to defend all your fellow Tennesseans. In most places in Tennessee, local law enforcement are either uninformed or unwilling to devote the resources to investigating and solving hate crimes in our state. We need the involvement of the FBI if we're going to put a dent in the problem. That won't happen unless you and your colleagues support the Matthew Shepard Act.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mr. Nice Guy: Obama's "constructive" criticism of McCain

Obama Runs Constructive Criticism Ad Against McCain

What kind of legs will McCain's plan to buy up bad mortgages have?

The dust is still heavy from McCain's "That one" comment and his bad flash poll numbers, but when it clears will we still be talking about his plan to purchase bad mortgages?

Well, this afternoon, it's looking like Yes. Just take a look at this link. In the last few hours alone, the media have been catching up to the plan and asking about details.

The Obama campaign must know something is up because last night they accused McCain of stealing the plan from Obama, even though they now oppose it as of this afternoon.

Regardless, it's John McCain's now and he's got to run with it. Consider it his second Sarah Palin.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Drawn out in Nashville: Reactions to the second Obama-McCain debate

Another debate that ended in something of a draw is over. Neither candidate has developed a line of attack that so characterizes the other one that it sticks. Attacking, of course, isn't the point. The vision of where the country needs to go is what matters. The embodiment of change vs. a record of reform.

Did anyone notice that social issues were off the table? Nothing about marriage or abortion.

Still, there were some juicy points tonight. Let's play the superlative game again:

Most authentic personal example: Obama when he talked about his mother dying of cancer. It was real and it connected.

Most surprising economic plan: Oddly enough, McCain. Buying up bad mortgages. Who knew? It's a gamble. We'll see whether it flies.

Most effectively delivered zing: Obama, who didn't seem nasty even when he said that the Straight Talk Express had lost a wheel. He has a natural confidence that is attractive even in moments of rebuke.

Best interaction with a questioner: McCain, who got a dream question from Navy man Terry Shirey. McCain was at his best in that moment.

Most guest stars: McCain again. Warren Buffet, Meg Whitman, Ted Kennedy, Joe Lieberman, Russ Feingold, Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt.

Foreign policy: Obama gave context to world problems without seeming professorial. He was clear when he talked about how we got into situations and where we went wrong. He did something that is hard to do in a debate--making context clear and meaningful.

New talks about consolidating Memphis and Shelby County governments

The Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission will hold a joint meeting today at 1:45 PM to discuss the latest proposal from Mayor Herenton to consolidate Memphis and Shelby County governments. He proposes surrender of the city charter.

The Commerical Appeal provides a detailed review of previous attempts to consolidate both governments. Also see the Memphis Daily News and Mary Cashiola's blog post on the subject.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cover America Now! rally draws politicians, activists

The Cover America Now! rally drew several hundred union members, activists, and a few politicians to Legislative Plaza this evening for speeches and musical acts highlighting the need for health care reform. Among those attending were Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bob Tuke, Democrat Mike Stewart running for TN House in the 52nd District, and at-large Metro Council Member Jerry Maynard.

The coverage was eclectic including WTVF and BBC Radio. Singer Jonell Mosser and the Rev. Ed Sanders of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church got the most excited reaction from the crowd of progressive activists and United Steelworkers, SEIU members, and other union representatives.

The Tennessee Equality Project was one of several organizations that sponsored the event.

Today is the last day to register to vote in Tennessee

No more procrastinating! Today is the last day to register in time for the November 4th election. Submit your registration form to the Shelby County Election Commission at 157 Poplar Avenue in downtown Memphis.

Voter registration in Shelby County and the rest of Tennessee is up - largely due to the excitement of the Presidential election.

Early voting for the Nov. 4 General Election begins Oct. 15 and runs weekdays and Saturdays through Oct. 30. There will be eighteen satellite voting centers including the Shelby County Election Commission, churches and community centers throughout Shelby County. For a list of locations, call (901) 545-4125, then press 4, or go to:

For voter registration and early voting information in other counties in Tennessee, visit the Tennessee Department of State's website to find out how to contact your local election commission.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dolly Parton's soft endorsement of Sarah Palin

Just when you thought the election couldn't get any more (fill in the blank), Dolly Parton dishes on Sarah Palin:

"I always say we're very much alike," says the normally bipartisan Parton. Parton goes on to tell "Extra": "(We're) both small town girls, both a Pentecostalism and we both carry an AK-47."

Maybe the connection goes deeper. She did sing the title song from the movie "Straight Talk." I wonder whether we'll start seeing Dolly's picture on the Straight Talk Express or hearing these lyrics slipping into Palin's speeches:

Gimme some straight talk, straight talk -- and hold the sugar please
Straight talk, straight talk -- sounds plenty sweet to me
Don't talk to me in circles in some mumbo-jumbo jive
Gimme just straight talk, straight talk and we're gonna be alright

'Cause I like to know just where I stand, I don't like guessing games
And I hate a bunch of gibberish, so just spit it out real plain
Don't use big educated words from your BS Degree
Straight talk, straight talk -- don't try B.S.-ing me

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sarah Palin's gay friends and drag shows: Red State Update

Lord have mercy!

Politics on the road in Kentucky

I took a quick round trip to Frankfort today. My first observation is that there is no hint of a gasoline shortage there. In fact, you can find gas for as little as $3.12 a gallon.

On the way, I drove through one of those great community festivals that happen all over the Commonwealth in its small towns. Republicans and Democrats were actively handing out materials, especially about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his challenger Bruce Lunsford. I told my parents about the talk down here of the prospect of Lamar Alexander becoming minority leader. I'll just add that they're not fans of McConnell and they both pointed out increased interest around Kentucky in Lunsford's campaign. As I drove along, I saw a few signs saying "Ditch Mitch."

I saw more McCain-Palin bumper stickers and yard signs than I've seen down here, but there were plenty for Obama-Biden, too. That race is also tightening in Kentucky, but no one had any doubts about McCain carrying the state.

Surrendering Memphis City Charter?

Mayor Willie Herenton declares his support for surrendering the Memphis City Charter as a mechanism for consolidating City and Shelby County government. There are a surprising number of officials willing to entertain the idea.

Such a move would have significant ramifications for the plans to enact a Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO) for the City of Memphis. If an NDO were enacted and the citizens of Memphis approved surrendering the city charter in a ballot referendum, we'd have to start over with the County Commission. Ultimately, a Shelby County NDO would be the next logical step after a Memphis's approval of the NDO.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tired and Correct vs. Energetic and Imprecise: Reaction to the Biden and Palin debate

It shouldn't matter, but Joe Biden looked tired and, apart from looking a little nervous, Palin was full of energy. Biden debated the points better, but Palin connected with the camera and likely with average people...unless....unless Palin's dodges were frustrating for viewers. Whether by deliberate strategy or by instict, Palin continued to answer questions she wanted to and not the ones posed by Gwen Ifill.

On grounds of merit, Biden won. But context is everything. In making up the most ground, Palin scored big. Some pundits are already saying that her foreign policy answers were scripted. That's no shock. But she knew which ones to marshal, and that's a departure from the interviews.

Setting aside the issue of who won the debate and turning to GLBT issues, our community won't be completely satisfied with either candidate's answers. Biden outlined areas of protection that will appeal to GLBT voters such as hospital visitation. Palin indicated that John McCain wouldn't oppose those. But it was clear that she was uncomfortable discussing the issue, so she turned that discomfort to a discussion of the diversity of her friends and tolerance. Both campaigns reaffirmed their opposition to same-sex marriage.

TEP PAC endorses Paul Shaffer for Memphis City Council Super District 9, Position 1

TEP PAC has endorsed Paul Shaffer for Memphis City Council Super District 9, Position 1. The winner of this special election will finish the term of Scott McCormick who resigned in late summer.

Mr. Shaffer will be a strong equality advocate on the Council. TEP PAC urges you to cast your vote for him if you live in his district.

If you would like to make a contribution to Mr. Shaffer's campaign or volunteer, go to . Let's work together to put another friend of our community on the Council so we can get closer to passing a nondiscrimination ordinance.

TEP PAC is a registered political action committee in Tennessee. Joyce Peacock, treasurer. The endorsements of TEP PAC do not necessarily reflect the views of the board of the Tennessee Equality Project.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Federal lawsuit targets Johnson City Police profiling of gay men

Kenneth Giles of Bristol, Virginia filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against the Johnson City Police Department alleging discrimination in a widely-publicized sex-sting in municipal parks in the fall of last year. Johnson City Police allegedly engaged in profiling gay or bisexual men and used local media to preferentially publicize the arrests of gay or bisexual men over heterosexual offenders. Salient points from the news report include:

“The Johnson City Police Department did extraordinary measures to publicize their arrests in a way they didn’t do for other crimes,” said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney, Lambda Legal.

He alleges Johnson City Police, with the authorization of Police Chief John Lowry, sent out a press release of the arrests, complete with photographs of all arrested, their names, addresses, and their charges. “If they publicized everybody’s arrest in the same way then we wouldn’t be filing this lawsuit,” said Nevins.

Police Chief John Lowry says he has yet to be notified of the lawsuit so he won’t comment on it. He did say there have been other arrests in this park of both homosexual and heterosexual sex.

“There was a whole range of offenses that were similar or much more serious but for none of them did they publish the photos of the arrestees,” said Nevins. He points to an arrest of two men and four women on prostitution related charges.

Nevins says police used the media to add additional punishment. “The punishment that the law of the State of Tennessee meets for these things isn’t sufficient, so they wanted to make sure they suffered separate additional punishment,” said Nevins.

The Triangle Foundation and the ACLU successfully challenged this kind of "bag-a-fag" operation with lawsuits in Michigan.